Big Interview

The recipe for a harmonious data centre acquisition

Justin Jenkins vantage.jpg

Justin Jenkins, COO Europe and president UK at Vantage Data Centers, tells Abigail Opiah why the acquisition of NGD was a lot easier than one might think.

Vantage Data Centers made its US$2 billion European debut in the first quarter of 2020 with the acquisition of Etix Everywhere and greenfield developments in Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan, Warsaw and Zurich. This was almost immediately followed by the Q3 acquisition of UK-based Next Generation Data (NGD), Europe’s largest single data centre campus.

The deal added 68MW of capacity across the world’s two largest markets — Northern Virginia and Silicon Valley. It also added another string to the bow of NGD’s chief executive officer, Justin Jenkins, who is now the COO for Europe and president for the UK at Vantage Data Centers.

“I also took on the role of chief operating officer for Europe, which is a very varied role. As COO, I have the construction team reporting to me. We look at the building of all campuses across the European estates and I look at the operational well-being of our existing campuses and then developing those campuses in a portfolio for customers that are on the European expansion,” says Jenkins.

“The role will continue to develop as we expand and bring more sites on. In the last five months, we have seen those continued successes. The first phase of the Frankfurt campus going live was a key milestone for us in the region and the ongoing developments in Cardiff.

“They all come with the associated challenges of constructing at a speed to market that is demanded by the customer and then taking those through into live service operation. The reality of life is that those challenges are ones that we enjoy and have been hugely successful in delivering.”

Jenkins says the main reason why the transaction between Vantage and NGD was smooth was that both companies’ core values and mission statements were aligned at the forefront.

“Being able to integrate that has been a rewarding exercise. The team in Cardiff have integrated seamlessly and it has been a case of integrating the policies, the procedures and commonalities — looking to how we can then globalise some of that, looking at how we globalise and standardise the customer experience across the company’s portfolio,” he says.

“We still have a couple of pieces of the integration left to finish off this quarter, which we had always anticipated. From an integration standpoint, we are very much aligned and on track to all of our planning.”

Vantage now has a presence in seven countries spanning two continents. In 2020, the company expanded from six to 12 markets, the number of campuses expanded from seven to 14, and total IT capacity increased by more than 100MW.

Once fully developed, these current and planned campuses will enable Vantage to provide customers with more than 1GW of operational capacity across over 7 million square feet.

Jenkins adds that Vantage now puts a lot of trust into the teams that continue to deliver on projects, and the site operations teams continue to operate the company’s campuses with close to no hiccups.

“That generally helps me sleep at night,” says Jenkins.

Market direction Vantage recently doubled its size in terms of markets served and increased IT capacity by more than 90% in 2020 with the company’s entrance into the European market and expansions throughout its North American footprint.

In addition to the company’s growth in the US, Vantage acquired Hypertec’s hyperscale data centre business in Montreal. This Q4 transaction marked Vantage’s third acquisition of the year and enabled the company to expand its total footprint in the Province of Quebec to 81MW of IT capacity across three campuses.

The campus, located less than two miles from Vantage’s existing 11MW campus in Montreal, sits on 10 acres and is set to consist of 320,000 sq ft once fully developed. Vantage revealed at the end of last year that it will immediately begin construction of a third facility to complete the campus, and the Hypertec data centre team, like the NGD team, joined Vantage.

“Vantage has always been very clear in terms of the market direction. It is very much focusing on the delivery and enablement for the hyperscale customer,” Jenkins explains.

“In our site in Cardiff, we have a subset of enterprise customers and those enterprise customers are still very important to us. It makes our Cardiff campus a niche site in terms of our portfolio. We continue to serve the enterprise market, and the local markets within Wales.”

The company also completed a concrete shell with 8MW of IT capacity at its Zurich campus, marking Vantage’s first greenfield European data centre, which is scheduled to be delivered in the third quarter of this year.

“We have continued to develop the European portfolio aligned to demand and we are continuing to see the hyperscalers’ growth curves across those markets. From our standpoint, it is about being an enabler within those geographies and making sure that we can continue the growth curves,” Jenkins says.

Vantage raised $3.6 billion through innovative funding strategies to meet market demand and provide customers with data centre facilities. The company also recently formed a strategic partnership valued at $3.5 billion with an investor group led by Colony Capital, Inc in North America.

The NGD acquisition was funded with equity commitments from Digital Colony Partners and other investors in Vantage, as well as acquisition debt financing.

Room for improvement

With the company pushing ahead full throttle with its expansion plans, Jenkins says there are two key areas that the company is vigorously working on — when asked if he could improve one thing with a magic wand, he picked the two: diversity and sustainability.

“For us, looking at how we bring more diversity to the way in which we are growing the data centre is prevalent. We are experiencing huge growth now across the European markets that comes with an aggressive hiring plan and attracting new talent into the organisation. Making sure that we are attracting diverse talent pools is deeply important to us,” he explains.

“The second is sustainability, which continues to be at the forefront of how we look at the data centre and how we stabilize energy efficiencies and bring those things forward. Those are the two driving goals as we continue the journey, outside of ensuring that the customer is at the front of everything we do.

“We have several goals when it comes to sustainability, and ultimately they range from the continued evaluation of the equipment we are using within the data centre, how we continue to drive the efficiencies there and looking at how we are driving power procurement.”

Jenkins feels that the way in which Vantage manages the environment should be wide-ranging within the confines of the organisation.

“We are looking at the big-ticket items but also bringing it back down to even the simple things like lighting within the data centre. It is that combination of cross-sectional environmental and sustainability goals that are hugely important,” he says.

One way the company is taking strides towards improving its stance in regards to its sustainability push is its recent commitment to an air-cooled model. While many conventional data centres consume thousands of gallons of water a day (typical for the industry is one half gallon per every kilowatt-hour consumed), Vantage’s air-cooled chillers feature a closed-loop system that needs no ongoing water source.

Vantage Data Centers is no different but focuses on using reclaimed water or very little water depending on the geography.

“From Vantage’s standpoint, we continue to look at how we develop our data centre sites and I think we are generally in a good place,” Jenkins concludes. “One of our core values is about transparency and openness with our customers.”